If there was one word to summarize the #GRIDLIFE festival, and I don’t believe there is, it would be epic. Epic in the sense that there is something for absolutely everyone. Epic in the sense that it showcases the most talented drifters, drivers, and musicians. The festival is truly all encompassing. #GRIDLIFE has two festivals throughout the year; a Midwest event in South Haven, Michigan and a South in Atlanta, Georgia. I went South.
My #Gridlife experience started with a 19 hour drive from Minneapolis to Atlanta. There is a group of Minneapolis locals that made the trek down with the intention of taking home some hardware. My good friend has also participated in the time attack portion of #GRIDLIFE for three years. He has raced his 2006 Mitsubishi Evolution IX with relative success.
When we arrived on Thursday, it was clear just how next-level this weekend was going to be. The paddock at Road Atlanta was loaded with unique and stunning cars. Forged Performance, a tuner shop in the import community, had brought out three killer looking Nissan GT-Rs. The drifter side of the paddock was also build after build of tire shredding, Chevy small block, screaming machines. In our group was a Viper ACR-E, two wild Corvettes, a duo of BMW M3s, and a trio of Mitsubishi Evolutions. After the quick stop, we headed to Waffle House and mentally prepared for the weekend to come.
Road Atlanta is famous for its esses between turn 4 and 5. It is also infamous for its dangerous turns 11 and 12 where drivers crest a blind hill followed by a steep descent onto the front straight. Video games and YouTube do not provide justice to just how terrifying the drop into turn 12 really is. It was my first time at Road Atlanta, and when we pulled through the gates, we were immediately greeted by the cliffside that is the 11 to 12 transition. This section would claim 3 cars in one fell swoop on Friday.
One large portion of the #Gridlife festival is the drifting. That form of motorsport had never been my style. I always paired it with the misfits of the automotive community. My perception immediately changed with the first tandem duo to drift in front of me that day. The sheer guts it takes to pitch your car into turn 10A at speeds that make time attack drivers quake, clutch kicking to get the tires smoking, and yanking the e-brake while hoping for the best is not something to laugh at. At several points I was absolutely convinced that I was about to witness a terrible accident, only to be amazed when the driver simply powered through. I was left with a newfound respect for the sport. While the cars are usually gaudy, decked out in sparkles and missing body panels, it all makes perfect sense when they are in motion.
Friday also carried a stark reminder that pushing your car eleven tenths has consequences. A Corvette Z06 was entering turn 12 at remarkable speed when it lost traction and hit the wall, hard. In the traffic jam that ensued, a Nissan GT-R was more focused on the track than the track conditions and failed to see the slowing cars in front of him. It took out one of the top competitors of the weekend and suffered catastrophic damage. Two cars from our own group were immediately behind the Corvette and then the GT-R. While they were quite shaken from the carnage, they were unhurt. Miraculously, no one was severely injured in the wreck.
#GRIDLIFE does not just stop when the sun sets. The #AFTERGRID brings the musical component to the festival. This entire event attracts some of the top artists of various genres to the track to perform right in the infield. This year headliners included Tokyo Machine, Joyride, Killer Mike, Slander and COFRESI. Along with the concerts, there were movies playing of previous #GRIDLIFE events, food trucks, and good ol’ car shows! One such car show was Rad Wood; a show of 80’s and 90’s cars where 80’s and 90’s attire was also optional. It really made for some special sights. While there is a lot of drifting and racing, there really is plenty to do for everyone.
Overall, the #GRIDLIFE festival was borderline overstimulating. There was so much going on, and so much to do, that keeping track of it all and making sure you see everything you want is a full time job. However, that may be due to the fact this was my first event. In the future (and there absolutely is a future here), that might not be so bad. The camaraderie, the variety of cars, and the music were something to behold. #GRIDLIFE was amazing and I absolutely cannot wait to go back.